This sermon on Matthew 17:14-27 was preached on June 17, 2018, at Lochee Baptist Chapel. You can listen to the audio here (50 min.), or read the manuscript below.
Yesterday, my friend’s 4-month-old daughter died. Jeremiah, the 16-year-old young man I mentioned last time I was here, is getting ready to leave the hospital and prepare to go home to his Lord. The last thing he did with working legs was to stand behind a pulpit like this and preach Christ’s resurrection. And now he readies himself, with his family, to meet his Maker like a man.
This morning, this is the best place in the world you could be.
You are going to die. Are you ready to die?
My job this morning is to seek your salvation.
If you sit here not a Christian, not trusting Jesus, not following him, not knowing the good news found in the Bible, then the death that will take you very soon will take you to hell.
I’m here to grab you by the shirt and stop you, to turn you from those eternal flames and point you to salvation in Jesus Christ. Believe in Jesus and be saved. Do not perish but have eternal life.
If you’re a Christian, my job is to teach you the Bible, that you might trust and love and obey your Savior and King even more.
So, please open your Bibles to Matthew 17:14-27. That’s the passage we’re studying this morning. Matthew 17:14-27.
We’re going to start by looking at verses 22-23 first and then look at the two stories in our passage, one before these verses and one after.
Why start in the middle? It tells us the heart of Matthew’s gospel.
These two verses connect these two stories in our passage.
Let’s read them together.
22 And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
Have you ever been on a hill walk that you’ll never forget?
What’s the name of that walking guy here? Dave Slade? He must’ve seen some amazing views over the years…obviously, nothing can compare to the views in America, but still.
Last week y’all saw a hill walk for the ages. Peter, James, and John got to go to the mountaintop with Jesus. And what did they see? They saw the glory of the Son of God!
You’ll remember Matthew 17:2, “And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.”
In Matthew 17:5, God the Eternal Father tells Peter to keeps his opinions to himself.
Just worship according to the Word.
While [Peter] was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!”
Jesus is God in the flesh. As God, he has always been, the eternally begotten of the Father, perfect, unchanging, the object of Divine pleasure.
As man, he has come to lead his people out of condemnation and into salvation.
Though his people were lost in sin, everyone who listens to him, everyone who trusts him, will be saved from death and given eternal life.
You are going to die! Will you be saved from the furnace of hell? Will you be saved?
As Jesus comes off the hill, he says to the three that he is the Son of Man, prophesied in Daniel 7.
“I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
14 “And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and men of every language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
This Son of Man is the royal title of the Divine Son of God, come as a man, seated on the throne of heaven, King of the Universe forever.
And Jesus tells Peter, James, and John, “That’s me. I am the Son of Man. And I will go to my day of crowning in heaven by taking the road that goes through a tomb, from death to resurrection. When I rise from the grave, preach my glory to the world.”
So, we come to Matthew 17:22-23, and Jesus says more of the same, this time to all 12 disciples.
“I am the Son of Man. I’m God in the flesh, your Maker and your God, the King of the Universe, come to save my people from their sin.
I will save my church by being betrayed and delivered into the hands of lawless men.
I will be killed by murderers. I will pay for all the sins of all my people. I will take God’s wrath against my people on myself, in their place. And they will be free. I will defeat death itself by rising from the grave, just as it has been prophesied.
I am the King of kings, and before I go up to my throne in heaven, I will go down to death for my people. And so win.”
How did the 12 disciples respond to this?
In verse 23, they were “deeply grieved”.
That isn’t the right response. It shows that they didn’t understand. They didn’t understand that the Son of Man from Daniel 7, the Universal King of Isaiah 9, was the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53.
He who would die in the place of his people.
They didn’t understand the road their King was destined to walk. They didn’t know that betrayal and murder was required for his victory.
Our two stories this morning, the first in verses 14-21, the second in verses 24-27, make it clear that Jesus is indeed the Son of Man. They show what is plain in the betrayal, murder, and resurrection of Jesus.
Let’s first look at verses 14-21, our first story. Here we see the Royalty of the Son of Man.
“14 When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him”
First, Christ’s royalty is displayed in his interaction with this man.
This man sees Jesus approaching, comes to him, and falls on his knees. When he speaks in verse 15, the first words out of his mouth are, “Lord, have mercy…”
We’re not told whether this man had saving faith in Christ.
But, in his actions, we see the only appropriate way for us to come to the King.
The man comes on his knees. He comes knowing that he cannot make demands of the Lord Jesus. He comes begging for mercy, knowing that Christ alone has the power to help him.
We must approach Jesus like this man.
You and I deserve nothing but judgment from the King. We have no claim on mercy from him. We’re not entitled to his blessings.
We cannot come to him making demands, with chins high, chests out.
King Jesus only listens to the cry of the humble heart.
Unless you’re poor in spirit, unless you know that you are dung, a wretched villain in God’s world, without any hope or goodness in and of yourself, you will have no blessing in Jesus’ name.
But if you come to him on your knees, and call out to him for salvation, he will save you. If you call out to him for help, he will help you.
The power of King Jesus is good news for humble sinners in need of aid. He died on the cross and rose again. He lives now to intercede for all who trust and depend on him.
But the power of this King of kings is bad news for the arrogant and proud. It’s terrible news for those who think they have anything good to their names. King Jesus will crush all proud men under his mighty fury.
Second, Christ’s royalty is displayed in his dealing with the man’s son.
15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”
What’s wrong with the boy?
He has severe epilepsy. He’s a lunatic, so his fits are brought on by changes with the moon. The fits throw him into fire and water. We learn from verse 18 that he is possessed by a demon. The demon is either causing the lunacy, or simply using it to try to kill this kid.
What do we learn from this boy’s demonic lunacy?
We learn that all of us are born rebels against the King.
Matthew doesn’t tell us that the boy is possessed by a demon because of a particular sin he or the father committed.
But we know that he’s only able to be possessed because, though a boy, he is a sinner.
The only child ever to be born innocent and pure was Jesus. Every other child is born in Satan’s clutches, conceived in and enslaved to sin—and therefore fair game for demonic possession.
This is what David writes in Psalm 51.
Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
David, like every child, is conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity.
Why is this? Why is every child born a rebel against the King by nature?
It’s because of Adam, the first man.
God made Adam from the dirt.
God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to trust and obey him.
And Adam failed.
He sinned. He disobeyed and brought all mankind into ruin.
As the first man and head of mankind, his sin in the Garden is inherited by all babies. All who are born in Adam are born sinners by nature.
The boy in Matthew 17 shows us the problem that all children have. And he shows us what all children need.
He’s brought to Jesus for mercy and receives salvation from lunacy and demonic possession.
Every child’s greatest problem is sin. Every child’s greatest need is salvation.
The only way a child can be saved is if that child is brought to Jesus for mercy and receives salvation from the merciful King.
Your kid isn’t a Christian because you did some Catholic voodoo with water.
Your kid isn’t a Christian because you’re Protestant, or because he colors back there during church.
Teach your child the Bible.
Tell your child the gospel.
Tell your wee lassie that she’s a rebel against God and deserves hell.
Tell your wee laddie that Jesus was without sin, died on the cross, and rose from the grave.
Tell your child that if she trusts and relies on Jesus, she’ll be forgiven, because Jesus died. She’ll be given eternal life, because Jesus rose from the grave.
My dad told me that when I was a five-year-old sinner. I believed in King Jesus and got salvation.
Third, Christ’s royalty is displayed in his sharp rebuke of the crowd.
17 And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”
This is what Jesus says when he’s told that the disciples were unable to heal the boy.
Do you think his response is confusing? Why is he so mad? Who is he so mad at?
Look closely at what he says. He’s mad at the generation before him. He’s mad at the crowd of Jews.
Why? Because they’re unbelieving and perverse.
They hadn’t gathered around the disciples in faith and dependence on God. They weren’t there because they loved and wanted to honor Jesus. These guys had come to disgrace the disciples. They wanted to prove that Jesus was a sham.
And Jesus isn’t having it. He’s an angry King.
Though he’s longsuffering, he’s no chump.
He’d put up with the unbelieving Jewish nation for a time. But, eventually, there came a “Time’s up!” A few decades after he says v. 17, this perverse generation of Jews had to face his fury and was crushed.
Let this be a lesson for us.
Unbelief and perversity make King Jesus angry.
Only a fool thinks that a delay of felt judgment means that there’s no judgment.
There was a “time’s up” for the Jews. There’s a “time’s up” for every man.
The Aberdonians march to celebrate sodomy.
Folks in Edinburgh march to celebrate feminism.
Folks in Birmingham bow to honor Allah.
The Irish vote to rip babies apart in their mothers’ wombs.
Guys down at the Hub claim to have Christian values while rejecting Christ.
Church of Scotland false teachers stand in pulpits and deny that Jesus died on the cross as a substitute, in the place of his people, for the sin of his people.
Death is the great “time’s up” for all mankind. Each of one of us has a “time’s up”.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved. Obey him. Or face the wrath of the King.
Fourth, Christ’s royalty is displayed in his dominance of the demon.
Christ’s competitors, even the vilest demons bound for hellfire, cannot stand against this King. Rebellion goes on, but only because he lets it. At his word, even the demons are forced to submit.
18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.
In his perfect timing, all enemies will bend the knee and declare that he is Lord.
Fifth, Christ’s royalty is displayed in his teaching the disciples.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not drive [the demon] out?”20 And He *said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 [But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”]
These disciples have already done miracles. In Luke 9:1 we read, “And [Jesus] called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases.”
We should be surprised right along with them that they weren’t able to heal this boy.
It’s exactly what Jesus had given them power to do.
So, why did they fail?
Jesus says that it’s “because of the littleness” of their faith. He means not that their faith is small in amount, but small in quality.
They’d forgotten who’d given the power in the first place.
These men, the miracle workings wizards in the book of Acts, weren’t the Avengers. They weren’t X-men, born with genetic mutations, giving them power over diseases and demon-monsters.
The power Christ’s apostles were to use was Christ’s power, not their own. They needed to work with total dependence on the King and his authority for success.
Apart from relying on King Jesus in faith, the disciples could do nothing. Relying on the power and authority of the King, the Greatest of Rulers, they could move mountains and turn the world upside down.
That’s exactly what they’d do. Cowards at the crucifixion, they would see the risen Lord and do his work, with his power, to the ends of the earth.
This is a good lesson for this church.
As a church, you’ve been given authority to represent the King here in Lochee. Unless you go about your work completely depending on the power of your King, you will fail.
It’s his power that keeps you believing the gospel.
It’s his power that keeps you obeying the Bible and saying no to sin.
It’s his power that uses our preaching and our singing and our prayers for good.
It’s his power that brings the dead to life when we evangelize.
It’s his power that sets Satan and the demon hordes to flight.
Trust and rely on your King.
That’s our first story. The Son of Man, who came to die and rise from the grave, shows us that he is the incomparable King.
Let’s now move to the second story. Here we see that the Son of Man is not just King, but is God in the flesh, ruler of his Creation, to be worshipped by his people.
24 When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?”
This tax isn’t a political tax. It isn’t for Rome or the SNP.
It’s a religious tax for the temple. It’s part of God’s law for the Jews in the Old Covenant.
This is what Exodus 30 says:
11 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord…so that there will be no plague among them when you number them.13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give…half a shekel as a contribution to the Lord.14 Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the Lord. 15 The rich shall not pay more and the poor shall not pay less than the half shekel, when you give the contribution to the Lord to make atonement for yourselves.16 You shall take the atonement money from the sons of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may be a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord, to make atonement for yourselves.”
This is the tax in question here in Matthew 17.
Obviously, where there are taxes, there are tax collectors. So, it’s the job of these guys to collect this tax, and they come up to Peter in Capernaum. And they ask if Jesus pays it.
Peter knows that his Master keeps Israel’s law flawlessly. So, in verse 25, 25 He said, “Yes.”
“And when he came into the house…”
Peter’s about to walk into his own Nathaniel story. Do you know Nathaniel?
Nathaniel was brought to Jesus by Philip in John 1. Jesus calls Philip to follow him. Philip finds Nathaniel and tells him that he has found the Promised Son of Man, Jesus of Nazareth. Nathaniel has a natural response to this news.
“Can anything good come from Lochee?”
Actually, he says, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Brave man, huh? Slagging the Messiah’s birthplace.
Easy to be brave when the other guy isn’t in the room, right? I’m very brave. That’s why I only make jokes about Stevie G when he isn’t around.
When Nathaniel comes to Jesus, Jesus lets him know that he saw and heard everything.
Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
This is exactly what Peter is reminded of here in Matthew 17.
Right after talking to the tax collectors, Peter comes in the house. And Jesus speaks to him before Peter can say a word.
Still verse 25.
“What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?”
Can you imagine Peter’s surprise? He walks into the house, after a private conversation, and it’s like Jesus was right there, hearing the whole thing.
Listen, there is nowhere you can escape the gaze of the Son of Man. There is no whisper low enough to avoid his hearing. This very moment the Son of Man sits in heaven seeing and hearing all.
If you’re not a Christian, hear this warning. In war, if you’re up against a superior force, you need superior intelligence. You need to know what the other guy is going to do and then surprise him. When you can’t go toe-to-toe, intelligence is your only chance.
If right now you’re not a Christian, then right now God is your enemy. Don’t for an instant think you can go toe-to-toe with the Son of God. He’s stronger than you. And you can’t surprise him. He’s got all the intelligence resources in the world.
This morning, you must stop being his enemy. Keep doing your thing, and you’ll lose worse than anything you could imagine.
Beg Jesus for forgiveness, for you are a sinner. Beg him to let you follow him, to let you join into his service, no longer fighting against him but fighting for him.
If you’re a member of this church, or if you’re a Christian and visiting with us this morning, be encouraged.
Jesus is with us by his Spirit, today, tomorrow, to the end of the age.
The Son of God is your Savior. When the battle rages most fiercely, in the darkest moments of your life, in the depths of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Jesus sees, he hears, he knows. And he lives to ever intercede.
Jesus knows the entire conversation about the temple tax Peter has had. He uses the opportunity to make a point to Peter about himself. He’s a grand teacher.
His question is straightforward. When a king takes a tax, who has to pay? The prince or the people? The son or the strangers in the land?
Peter answers rightly. In verse 26, he says, “From strangers”
Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt.
What is Jesus’ point?
He’s exempt from paying the temple tax. Why? The purpose of the temple was for God to be with and worshipped by his people. And Jesus is God’s Son. He’s the 2nd Person of the Godhead, Eternal Son of the Eternal Father, come in the flesh.
The Son is exempt from the temple tax.
He’s God. He doesn’t need to pay a tax for God.
What does this mean for you?
It means that you must worship him. You must give your whole life in service to him.
The fear of Christ is the beginning of wisdom. Fear him and obey all his commands.
Jesus, being the Son of God, doesn’t have to pay the tax. So, will he pay here in Matthew 17?
Verse 27 reads, “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”
Jesus pays the tax. And we see two reasons why.
By paying the tax, he is able to emphasize that he is God in the flesh.
He doesn’t take a coin out of his pocket. He commands a coin to be where coins aren’t, in the mouth of a fish. And he commands that fish to be exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, for Peter to put a hook in its mouth and get the money.
The Son of Man is God. He made the universe. He now sits in heaven holding that very universe together with his sovereign power. Every fish swims exactly where he tells it to swim. Every day unfolds exactly how he tells it to unfold.
Christians, our Lord Jesus is our God. Let us worship and serve him.
The second reason Jesus pays the tax is to not offend the tax collectors.
This isn’t the kind of offending that liberals are so worried about.
“Ahh! You can’t say that Gay Pride Day is a disgusting perversion worthy of criminal convictions and sulfur from heaven! That might hurt a lesbian’s feelings!”
This offending is the kind of offending in Matthew 5, where Jesus says if your right eye causes you to sin, cut it out. It’s better to go to heaven blind than to hell with two eyes.
The eye is the offending eye. It’s causing the man to sin. It’s a snare.
Jesus doesn’t want to put these guys in a position where they’re going to sin. He probably means that if he refuses to pay, then they still have to do their job and would likely go up against Jesus—always a bad idea.
In order to avoid this, Jesus pays up.
His main beef was with the Jewish leaders corrupting the temple, not these blokes just doing their job.
And he is patient. He was going to make his point about the temple in a much more public way soon enough, at the exact right time.
He’d make clear to the whole world that he’s God in the flesh, the Son of the Father, the true temple.
He’d do this by dying on the cross and rising from the grave, as he promised in verses 22-23.
This morning, Matthew has been very clear about who Jesus is. We’ve seen that the Son of man is the King. And the Son of man is God in the flesh, come to die for his people and rise from the grave.
Will you respond with wisdom?
Will you humbly trust and serve this King all your days? Will you worship and obey the Son of God?
Will you look to him for salvation, for forgiveness, for eternal life? Will you look to him to lead and guide you?
Or will you be a fool?
Will you continue your rebellion against this King? Will you continue to deny him the thanks and honor that he, your Maker, is due?
This morning, you have heard God’s Word.
You have seen Christ.
Death is coming for us all.
I’ve done my job this morning.
What are you going to do about it?